What is Rwanda ?

Geographically, Rwanda is situated in Africa, in the region of mountains, plateaus, lakes and volcanoes that separate Central Africa from East Africa. Its landscape is characterized by a multitude of hills, which is why it’s called “the country of a thousand hills”. It’s a country with no sea access, surrounded by Uganda to the North, Tanzania to the East, Burundi to the South and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the West.

Rwanda enjoys tropical but temperate climate thanks to its altitude. The sun shines almost all year round and the average daily temperature is 24° C. Two rainy seasons, from October to December and from March to May, break the monotony of this climate. The climatic conditions are favourable to agriculture, and allow for several harvests a year, where the quality of the soil allows it. The country produces fruit and vegetables, tea and coffee. It has a very rich fauna and flora. It has national parks and animal reserves, especially in the East with the Akagera Park and in the North with the Park of the Volcanoes, which shelters the last mountain gorillas.

With its surface area of 26 338 Km2 and approximately 12.5 million inhabitants, Rwanda has one of the highest population density in Africa (489 inhabitants / km2). Kigali, the capital, is the most populated city, with more than one million inhabitants. It is estimated that by 2020, the Rwandan population will reach 16 million inhabitants. More than 90% of Rwandans depend on agriculture for their livelihood. As a consequence, this population pressure has created a significant exhaustion of the soil.

The Rwandan population is spread around twenty family clans from Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. They all speak the same language, Kinyarwanda, and have the same way of life and the same culture. Before the events of 1994, it was estimated that the Hutu represented 85% of the population, the Tutsi 14% and the Twa 1%.

The Rwanda population shares a very rich culture. The cow and milk, the spearheads of diverse geometry, hoe, the bow and its arrow, the banana wine and sorghum beer, woven baskets: all these elements are symbols of the Rwandan tradition. The iron craft, wooden objects, objects made of soil or plants used to characterize daily life. Clothes were made with animal skin or tree bark, a texture close to fabric.

Oral tradition is widespread and respected. Poetry, dances, pastoral songs, songs for traditional weddings and hunting, drums, epic poems exalting courage and love: all these artistic expressions convey orally elements of identity and socialization. Stories and sayings are used to impart certain values, and have as characters animals and ancestral heroes. The best representatives of this culture are the dancers intore, their movements are full of warrior battles, exploitation of the soil, farming and hunting.

Rwanda was a monarchy until 1961. It then became a democratic republic. The president is elected by universal suffrage. Nowadays, the presidential term lasts 7 years, renewable once. The sitting president since 2000 is Paul Kagame. The bicameral parliament consists of a Chamber of Deputies with 80 members and a Senate with 26 members. The parliament is elected for a term of 5 years. The Rwandan Patriotic Front or FPR (from French Front patrotique rwandais) has been in power since the end of the genocide in July 1994.

10 other political parties exist today in Rwanda but most of them support the FPR. A national consultative Forum of political parties gathers all these political formations and promotes the consensus at the expense of political completion. Its independence is nevertheless prone to debate. The way of creating a political party, with its recording being subjected to the authorization of a governmental authority, the Rwanda Governance Board, is particularly laborious. Several political opponents are imprisoned today in Rwanda. Around twenty opposing political parties also exist outside the country.

Rwanda imposes a legal quota of women parliamentarians. In 2013, they represented 63.8% of deputies, and 38.5% of senators. However, the adhesion of these women to these positions, and the room for manoeuver that they have to really strive in favour of the woman’s cause, is debatable.